Teacher Resource Pack 1 - Guide to Traditional Irish Instruments

Welcome to the first of our teacher resource packs. It focuses on instruments used to perform traditional Irish music. In the pages that follow, you will see the fiddle, accordion, guitar, bodhrán, uilleann pipes and the flute.

We have created six versions of each that are in the following order:

- Full colour poster (this provides you with the answers to the worksheets)

- Basic colour poster Infants worksheet

- First and second class worksheet

- Third and fourth class worksheet

- Fifth and sixth class worksheet

The worksheets range from a colouring in exercise for infants, all the way up to a reading and ‘name the parts’ exercise for fifth and sixth classes. All worksheets are in greyscale and printer/photocopier friendly. We hope you enjoy using these worksheets in your class and, as ever, we would welcome any feedback you might have.

Best wishes,

Shane, Killian and Chris

To download the resource, click here:

Guide to Traditional Irish Instruments

Below is some useful information about each instrument (which is included in the resource) along with some recordings which you can play in the classroom to demonstrate these different Irish musical instruments:


The fiddle is a common instrument in folk and traditional music. In Irish traditional music, it is mainly used to play fast jigs and reels. It’s strings are stretched from nut to tailpiece and tuned using tuning pegs.

The strings are played by moving a bow back and forth over them. The player holds the strings down on the fingerboard to play different notes. The sound escapes through the f-holes and this is what we hear.

- Zoe Conway and John McIntyre 'Desert Storm Set'


The accordion was invented in the early 1800s in Austria. It became very popular as it was portable and loud, especially with Italians emigrating to the United States during the Gold Rush. Today it is found in folk music in Ireland, Italy, Mexico and Colombia.

As the bellows are pumped, air moves over the reed blocks located inside. These reed blocks act like little harmonicas and create different sounds depending on what the player does. The sound then comes out through the grill.

The treble keyboard can be used to play the melody of a song while the bass buttons can be used to provide the accompaniment. This is why the accordion is often referred to as a ‘one man band’.

- Alan Kelly Quartet - Sally Ann's Reels


The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world and is used a lot in folk, blues, pop and rock music.

Its strings are stretched from the saddle to the nut and are tightened using the tuning pegs.

Fingers are placed on the fretboard beside the frets to give different notes. The player then either strums the strings using a pick, or plucks the individual strings using their fingers.

The sound vibrates through the body of the guitar and is amplified through the sound hole.

- Shane McKenna (Dabbledoo Music Classroom Concert)


The bodhrán is an Irish frame drum that dates back to the mid 1800s. It replaced the tambourine in traditional Irish music and was known as the ‘poor man’s tambourine’ as it did not have cymbals on the side.

It consists of a circular wooden frame with a goatskin stretched across it. The skin is played with a small stick in one hand known as a tipper. The other hand is placed on the other side of the skin to control the pitch of the sounds made.

Some bodhráns had more than one use and were often used to store grain and separate stones from soil!

- Robbie Harris

Uilleann Pipes

The uilleann pipes are the national bagpipe of Ireland. The name comes from the Irish term ‘píopaí uilleann’, which means ‘pipes of the elbow.

The player uses their right elbow to suck air in through the bellows, which is connected to the bag. They use their left elbow to squeeze the bag which pushes air through the pipes. This means that they don’t need to blow air in with their mouth as with other bagpipes.

They play the melody on the chanter, which has seven holes on it. They play chords on the thirteen regulators. Drones are the loud, long sounds created by the longest pipes. When everything is put together it sounds like more than one instrument!

- Joe McKenna - Foxhunt (Dabbledoo Music Classroom Concert)


The flute is one of the oldest known instruments, with the oldest known flutes to be 42,000 years old! These ancient flutes were made from animal bones, whereas today’s flutes are made from metals like silver, nickel and brass. The flute pictured here is known as a western concert flute.

At the top there is the head joint. This contains the lip plate, across which air is blown by the player, known as a flautist.

This air stream moves through the flute and different notes are made by controlling the finger keys on the body.

The foot joint is the lowest section of the flute.

- Matt Molloy